Center for Immigration Studies Executive Director Mark Krikorian’s new book, The New Case Against Immigration, naturally raises the question: “What’s wrong with the old case against immigration?”
According to Krikorian, there wasn’t an “old case against immigration,” but rather many different cases against immigration. Some were based on national security; others on culture or sovereignty; some on the effect on wages; others on population and the environment. Krikorian acknowledges that all these objections are perfectly legitimate, but proposes a “unified field theory of immigration control.”
As ambitious as this sounds, what Krikorian really tries to do is to take a few unobjectionable principles typical of a “modern society,” such as a shared national identity, a large middle class with some upward mobility, basic government infrastructure, environmental stewardship etc., with all of which 80 percent of the population regardless of political orientation agree, and explain how mass immigration damages them.
When going through each of these issues, he does a bit of summarizing the work of others, such as Harvard economist George Borjas, but he comes up with many original arguments himself.
One of the best parts of the book are his answers to “Why can’t we have mass immigration if we get rid of ____?”
For example, many libertarians say the problem is not immigration, but welfare. The obvious retort to that is, “We’ll talk when we end the welfare state” — which, Krikorian says, like it or not, is here to stay. Even if the size of government were cut in half, and the immigrants paid the same amount of taxes they do now, they’d still be a significant fiscal burden.
For those who suggest that welfare be cut off specifically for immigrants, but not for the general population, Krikorian notes that this was tried with welfare reform, without success. Furthermore, a huge chunk of the costs of illegal immigrants comes in the form of health care, education, and criminal justice. If immigrants are denied these basic services while still living in this country, it will even further exacerbate the problem of the immigrant underclass.
Similar arguments are made by neoconservatives who say the problem is multiculturalism, not immigration. Krikorian retorts that the newer immigrant children are getting their education in schools “more likely to engage in a deliberate process of de-Americanization” — by which he no doubt means the kind of education typified by the names Manzanar, Sally Hemings, Sacajawea, and the Trail of Tears.
He could have added that immigrants support both welfare and multiculturalism politically — so their increasing numbers will further entrench these programs.
On national security, Krikorian goes through the usual arguments about how flaws in our visa and entry-exit system, as well as our lack of border security, make us vulnerable to terrorism. He then makes the obvious — but often overlooked — point that fixing these problems would be a lot easier if we just had fewer foreigners in the country. He uses Mao’s line that “The people are like water and the army is like fish” to explain how large Muslim enclaves—even if the residents are law abiding — make it easier for terrorists to blend in undetected.
In these areas, Krikorian does do a very good job at synthesizing the “old” arguments with some of his own to come up with a coherent case against mass immigration.
But there is one “old case against immigration” that Krikorian does not incorporate in his unified field theory: opposition to the massive ethno-demographic change created by post-1965 immigration. Krikorian cites Peter Brimelow’s 1995 Alien Nation and Pat Buchanan’s State of Emergency, only to dismiss them as evidence that this concern is misplaced.
Indeed, Krikorian sounds no different than any Open Borders advocate when he claims that various European immigrants who were once considered inassimilable ended up assimilating, and are hence proof that all immigrants can assimilate. According to Krikorian, “today’s raw material for assimilation — the immigrants from Asia and Latin America — is not [quoting Peter Brimelow] ‘systematically different from anything that had gone before’ but instead a continuation of the expansion of ‘Us.’”
Krikorian’s book even opens, “It’s not the immigrants — it’s us. What’s different about immigration today as opposed to a century ago is not the characteristics of the newcomers.”
But in fact Krikorian gives us many reasons that suggest that the source of today’s immigrants give us problems that the earlier wave did not.
In this sense, his book is eerily reminiscent of the Brezhnev era in the Soviet Union: intellectuals could deviate from the Party line — so long as they paid lip service to it at the beginning and the end of whatever they wrote.
He notes that when immigration enthusiasts praise the diversity of our newcomers, they mean that they aren’t white. In reality our immigrant population is quite un-diverse: it is overwhelmingly Mexican.
And Mexicans are not the easiest group to assimilate. Krikorian’s chapter, “Mass Immigration vs. National Sovereignty,” might as well be called “Mexico vs. National Sovereignty.” Although he briefly discusses NAFTA and the North American Union, the bulk of what he reports is Mexican interference in almost every aspect of our laws and culture.
Krikorian calls the Mexican surge of immigration “Drang nach Norden” [“Drive toward the North”], comparing it to the demographic invasion of German immigrants into Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages. He does not think there will be an actual Reconquista of Aztlan in the sense of an active secessionist movement. But he perceives a “greater threat”—the Mexican government expanding its power beyond its borders and acquiring “authority over the decision making of federal, state, and local governments all over the United States.”
Krikorian goes through the litany of quotes from prominent Mexican leaders urging Mexican emigrants and their descendants to have loyalty to the motherland, as well as American citizen politicians and professors who make it clear they are listening. He then gives numerous examples of how Mexican government meddles in our affairs far beyond lobbying for amnesty. These intrusions include funding bilingual education, getting American schools to use Mexican textbooks, intervening in criminal prosecutions, and giving illegal aliens ID cards to be used in the U.S.
Furthermore, Krikorian notes that while Mexico is the most meddlesome government, they have successfully created a “Pan-Hispanic” identity among all their co-ethnics in the U.S. against the Gringo. While Krikorian nominally espouses color-blindness, he thoughtfully supplies an entire section on Hispanic “ethnic chauvinism” by groups like MEChA and La Raza.
Incredibly, Krikorian concludes this chapter by saying we should not blame Mexico—there is nothing extraordinary about what it is doing. He suggests that many of the actions of the Italian government during the Mussolini era mirrored those of Mexico.
But there are some very critical differences that Krikorian does not mention. Italy does not share a border with the United States. Italians have no historical or ethnic grudge against the U.S. Italians were able to successfully integrate into our economy and society. And, of course, this assimilation was helped by the Great Cut-Off of the 1920s (which Krikorian actually mentions elsewhere).
And what was so great about Mussolini anyway?
This blind spot infects other parts
of the book. Krikorian attributes today’s immigrants’ lack of upward social mobility compared to those in the past solely to changes in America. Both came from rural peasant societies. But today’s immigrants are faced with an information economy, compared to an industrial economy for those in the past. However, this problem does not apply to all immigrants today. Both Asian and Eastern European immigrants manage quite well even if they came from a rural background.
All this said, most of Krikorian’s policy prescriptions are sensible. He calls for dramatically lowering the total amount of legal immigration by limiting family reunification to spouses and dependent children, and cutting off nearly all employment-based visas except for “aliens of extraordinary ability” — meaning those who have “unique, remarkable abilities and would make an enormous contribution to the productive capacity of a nation,” He tosses out the idea of having a minimum IQ of 140.
He calls for rejecting any form of amnesty and for slowly having illegal aliens removed from the country through the “attrition strategy” — ending illegal aliens’ access to jobs, increasing deportations, promoting cooperation between state and local law enforcement and the DHS, and similar policies.
And while Krikorian is not willing to defend restrictionism based on changing demographics, he has publicly said that his policies may well have “disparate impacts” on different races — which would change the ethnic balance of the immigrant influx.
Krikorian is a policy wonk, not an activist. His book does not make any suggestions as to how to get the politicians to enact our policies. The problem isn’t that we don’t have the people on our side; it’s that their voices are not being heard. Although we have a long way to go, the fact that thousands and thousands of angry Americans were able to shut down the Senate switchboard with the sheer volume of their calls has managed to stop a few amnesties and even get E-verify reauthorized. The best thing we can do is make more Americans more angry.
The New Case Against Immigration is well worth reading for immigration reform patriots who would like to bulk up on their debating skills. If you have a bookish open borders friend or family member who you’d like to convert, it will make them think twice about their positions. Unlike books like State of Emergency , however, it won’t make them angry.
And anger is what it’s going to take patriotic immigration reform enacted. ■